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Cantor criticizes Obama on US actions in Libya

By Bob Lewis

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 24 2011 2:20 p.m. MDT

RICHMOND, Va. — House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Thursday that President Barack Obama must more clearly explain the U.S. role in Libya.

"I do think there is a lot of concern right now about what the end game is in Libya. The president seemed to concern himself on where our allies were on this issue," Cantor told reporters after addressing real estate agents in his hometown.

"Many members of Congress feel left out. There wasn't enough consultation with Congress prior to commitment of forces and military action," he said.

Cantor is the second Virginia member of Congress to call out the Obama administration on what they feel is a murky American strategy in the multinational military effort to enforce a no-fly against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's military.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, like Cantor, said Tuesday that the American goals in the latest military incursion have not been explained to Congress or the nation. They also both said the administration knows little about the Libyan opposition forces trying to push Gadhafi from power.

They are among many in Congress growing more restive over the third conflict in the region involving U.S. forces after Afghanistan and Iraq.

"It seems more important to appease the United Nations and Europe at times than it is to answer to the American people," Cantor said. "Where is Washington taking us in, now, this new commitment of action?"

Cantor, who is Jewish and a powerful advocate for Israel, said he fears the action in Libya provide an opportunity for "radical Islam."

"Any time there is a vacuum in the Middle East, there is a very great potential for forces associated with radical Islam to take hold," he said. "There's the situation in Egypt, the situation in Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and, now yesterday, in Jerusalem."

Cantor said the focus of U.S. Middle East policy should be "to stop the spread of radical Islam. If one is to take that as a priority, we should be focusing like a laser on stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear capability as far as its weaponry is concerned."

That means that all options — diplomacy, sanctions and military action if necessary — should be open, Cantor said.

"If we're engaging diplomatically, the only language that some in that region understand is that there may be the threat of force. I've said all options (are) on the table, but I've said we have a lot of other things that have not been done as far as sanctions are concerned and pressure that we can apply to Tehran," he said.

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